Monday, August 22, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Takayuki Kishi wins 100th career win



In what is most likely one of the better weeks of the season, the Saitama Seibu Lions finally slayed some pitchers who have had their number, including Shota Takeda. They would go 4-1 on the week, and seeing what hopefully will be the breakout weekend of an intriguing Lions player.

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In Game 1 against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Fukuoka, it would be a battle of aces in Takayuki Kishi vs Shota Takeda. The Hawks begans the scoring with a solo home run from Nobuhiro Matsuda in the second inning, followed by an RBI single from Shinya Tsuruoka.

Things would look even more grim for Kishi in the third, where a single from Yuki Yanagita would make it 3-0. The base runner was allowed as Nien Ting Wu couldn't get to a short flyball past the outfield, landing between Shogo Akiyama and Wu.

The fourth inning would bring some changes. Takeda struggled with control and allowed a leadoff walk to Akiyama. After a stolen base, Tomoya Mori would plate him to put the Lions on the board. Ernesto Mejia doubled and created a chance for Hideto Asamura. On first pitch, he would take it to no man's land and the Lions tied the game at 3-3. Two walks later, Wu would be hit on the leg from Takeda's first pitch and the Lions went up 4-3.

Kishi struggled out of the gate, but settled in with four straight scoreless frames from the 4th to the 7th. He would be rewarded for settling in, as Akiyama plated a run in the 6th inning with a single.

The heavy jam came in the bottom of the 8th inning as the Hawks would have two runners on with two outs. Yanagita singled and made it a one run game at 5-4. He would later steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. However, Kishi would get Yuki Yoshimura to flyout and end the threat.

Akiyama added insurance again with a solo home run into the left field terrace off Roberto Suarez. Tatsushi Masuda closed the game and the Lions would take the first game of a two-game series. It would be Kishi's 100th career win.

Lions 6, Hawks 4

Game notes:

-Ginjiro Sumitani played his 1,000th career game. He was honored at the 5th inning sweeping break.

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In Game 2, it would be a rematch of two weeks ago in Okinawans Nao Higashihama and Shinsaburo Tawata. This would take place in Kyocera Dome, which is a neutral site for both teams.

The Lions started the scoring with a two-out RBI double from Asamura. However, the Hawks answered back in the second inning, all with two outs. Two singles led to runners being on the corners and Yuya Hasegawa would plate a run with a single. A double steal would then tie the game by both Akashi and Shuhei Fukuda as the former stole third base earlier. The Hawks went ahead in the bottom of the 3rd off an RBI groundout from Matsuda.

Momentum went in the Lions favor when Tawata's control was off, but it led to a missed bunt a failed squeeze attempt.  The Lions were able to throw Hasegawa out without problem.

It wouldn't be until the 6th inning where there would be life. Mejia would blast a no-doubt solo home run to the upper deck to tie the game. After Asamura and Takumi Kuriyama singled, Naoto Watanabe would single to load the bases. With Yuito Mori pitching, Nien Ting Wu would single on a full count to give the Lions a 5-3 lead.  Asamura would add a solo home run as insurance in the top of the 8th.

Shota Takekuma, Kazuhisa Makita and Tatsushi Masuda made the final three frames boring after Tawata had an early jam through six innings. Tawata would have five strikeouts and earn his fourth victory of the season.

Lions 6, Hawks 3

Game notes:

-Naoto Watanabe was honored for playing his 1,000th career game. He would have two base hits.

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Game one of the weekend series vs the Chiba Lotte Marines would feature a delightful pitching matchup between the Yusei Kikuchi and the Marines' best pitcher this season, Ayumu Ishikawa.

After Kikuchi threw a clean inning in the top half of the first, the Lions would get to Ishikawa right away with the help of Shogo Akiyama who provided a "Rickey Henderson" home run which is one that leads off the game. It was a hanging breaking ball that Akiyama pushed the other way and it landed in the Lions Oendan. Ishikawa would retire the next two Lions hitters but Ernesto Mejia would spark the two out rally for the Lions who made sure that the hard contact that were seeing against Ishikawa resulted more than just a single run. Mejia would rip a double down the left field line into the corner, setting the table for the returning, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura. And Okawari-kun would mark his comeback with a bang as he'd hit the second opposite field home run of the inning, this time into the Marines Oendan and make the score 3-0. In the first inning, the Lions forced Ishikawa to throw 34 pitches, a high-stress inning that Ishikawa would foreshadow a short outing for him.

Both starting pitchers would have a few relatively calm innings, but that would change in the 4th inning. Kikuchi would give up a leadoff walk Takashi Ogino to start the inning, he'd then strikeout Katsuya Kakunaka before facing Alfredo Despaigne. Kikuchi would get into a long battle with Despaigne, and probably should've earned a strikeout but the umpire didn't agree, with the count at 2-2, Despaigne would get a hold of a Kikuchi fastball and hit a towering homerun into the Lions Oendan to make it a 3-2 game. Kikuchi would allow more baserunners in the inning, but wouldn't allow anymore damage.

The Lions would answer in the bottom half of the inning thanks to the man known as "Okawari Two," Hotaka Yamakawa who would smash a hanging breaking ball from Ishikawa and it would land in the Lions Oendan for a no-doubt solo home run to make it a 4-2 Lions lead after 4 innings. This would be the start of what would end up being a big night for Okawari Two.

The Marines would answer back quickly in the 5th off Kikuchi, thanks in large part to a leadoff triple by the rookie, Taiga Hirasawa. Kikuchi would get the next two batters out and nearly got the Houdini until throwing a wild pitch that allowed Hirasawa to score and make it a one run ballgame.

The teams would trade scoreless frames in the bottom of the 5th and the top of the 6th, but the Lions would provide the insurance run in the bottom of the 6th which would end up closing the scoring. It would again be Okawari Two who would provide the blast, this time it would be off Marines reliever, Kota Futaki who would relieve Ishikawa after the 5th. Yamakawa would crush a first pitch fastball from Futaki and it would just get over the wall in the left field power alley to extend the Lions lead to 5-3. The blast was Yamakawa's 6th of the season.

After struggling in the middle innings, Kikuchi would settle in and get through seven innings, thanks in large part to the ace treatment from manager, Norio Tanabe. He'd end up throwing 129 pitches, allowing 4 walks and striking out 5.

Tanabe would turn to his fireman reliever, Kazuhisa Makita to pitch the 8th inning, and he'd face a little bit of trouble due to giving up two walks and a hit, but he'd provide a clean inning.

In the 9th, Tatsushi Masuda would come into the 9th to nail down his 20th save of the season and hed'd do so despite allowing a hit. The victory would bring Yusei Kikuchi's record to 9-5.

Lions 5, Marines 3

Game notes:

- The Lions provided a special pregame tribute to the late Yasumitsu Toyoda, who was a member of the Nishitetsu Lions during the 50s and 60s and was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. He passed away August 14th of this year at the age of 81.

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Game two would be a matchup between two back end rotation starters, the Lions would send out Ken Togame, while the Marines would send out Ryota Sekiya.

Like the previous game, the Lions would strike early thanks to great plate discipline by Shogo Akiyama and poor defense from Marines' third baseman, Daichi Suzuki including an error and poor reaction on a bloop single by Yuji Kaneko. This would light the fuse for a bases loaded situation with Ernesto Mejia at the plate and Mejia would hit a sac fly to open the scoring, then Okawari-kun would follow it up with a sac fly of his own and that would get the Lions Oendan to start the "soyase," chant and give the Lions an early 2-0 lead after 1.

Togame would struggle in the first three innings but made sure the Marines continued to put up zeroes, his start almost felt like a ticking time bomb the more it went on. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Lions would ease those tensions by adding a run. A two-out double by Ernesto Mejia would get things started and that would set the table for Okawari-kun, who would take a free pass to first. With Mori at the plate, Sekiya would continue to have control issues as he'd fall behind 3-0 before grooving in a strike. With the count at 3-1, Mori would rip a single up the middle and Mejia would charge around third and give the Lions a 3-0 lead and show that Sekiya's pitches in this game were numbered.

Togame would continue to struggle in the top of the 4th, giving up a leadoff double to Daichi Suzuki. Yamaico Navarro would give him a gift with a pop up due to a poor launch angle, but Ikuhiro Kiyota would rip a single into centerfield and give the Marines their first run of the game.

The rout would begin in the bottom of the 4th, with Nien Ting Wu on with one out, Shogo Akiyama would rip a ball into the right-center field gap that would score Wu easily and get Akiyama to third standing up. Sekiya would then listlessly walk Kaneko, bringing up Asamura, and Sekiya would throw a wild pitch that would go right through the wickets of catcher, Naoyo Emura allowing Akiyama to score and make it 5-1. After Sekiya finished the inning, he would be done for the day after 95 pitchers.

Togame himself would finish up in the next half inning, where he gave up a walk and no less but had faced 22 batters and struggled for the most part, so it was definitely the right move.

In the top of the 6th, Felipe Paulino would start the inning for the Lions and this inning was the one that made it look as though the Marines would make it into a game. Paulino would strikeout the first batter he faced, but it was all downhill from there. Yamaico Navarro would rip a single and Kiyota would do the same, making it first and second with one out for Hirasawa who would smash a double into the right field corner and make it 5-2. Things would get worse as Paulino would throw a wild pitch past Gin-chan making it 5-3 with a runner on third and only one out. Then Seiya Inoue would provide a pinch hit, RBI single that would make it one run ball game and chase Paulino from the ballgame. Tanabe would bring in Hirotaka Koishi who would face two batters and strikeout one of them and get the Lions out of the inning and that would be the last time the Marines would feel in the game.

The Marines would bring in Yuta Omine for the bottom of the 6th and the Lions would lay ravage to him, just like the Marines had previously done to Paulino. With one out in the inning, things would all get started thanks to Shogo Akiyama once again, who provided a single that got past the diving Hirasawa and into left field. Kaneko would follow it up with a ground ball that snuck by the first baseman and it allowed Akiyama to turn on the jets and head to third. Kaneko would then steal second base and put all the pressure on Omine to get Asamura. Asamura would promptly rip one into the gap, past the reaching Kiyota and two runs would score easily to make it 7-4 Lions. Mejia would then groundout for the second out of the inning and that would set things up for Okawari-kun who would promptly line one past the shortstop and allow Asamura to score easily. Just like that, it was back to a four run lead.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Lions would officially break it open and throw out any doubt that may have existed. Facing Shota Kurosawa, a leadoff single by Okawari Two followed by a walk to Nien Ting Wu and a wild pitch would set things up for the pinch hitting, Masatoshi Okada. And Okada would hit a liner right in front of the right fielder allowing one run to score and making it runners on first and second with one out and Shogo Akiyama and the top of the order due up. Akiyama would hit a long drive to center that would be deep enough to score Wu and make it a 10-4 game and that would be the last tally in this game.

From here on out, a combination of low leverage innings from Shota Takekuma, Tatsuya Oishi, and Takuya Toyoda would close out the game and give the Lions the series victory and Ken Togame's 4th win of the season.

Lions 10, Marines 4

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In the final game of the week, the Lions looked to sweep behind their up and coming phenom, Kona Takahashi. The Marines would send out former Lions ace, Hideaki Wakui to try and play the stopper.

Like the previous two games in this series, it would be the Lions scoring first in the bottom of the 1st. With one out in the inning, back to back singles by Kaneko and Asamura would set things up for Ernesto Mejia, but Kaneko would take a risk and steal third base successfully, allowing Mejia to just hit a deep drive to right field and open the scoring with a sacrifice fly.

In the top of the 2nd, Takahashi would have to Houdini his way out of a bases loaded jam, which was unfortunately a sign of things to come for this game.

In the 3rd, more foreshadowing would occur, with one on and nobody out, the dangerous, Kakunaka would bang one off the right centerfield wall and make it runners on second and third with nobody out. The lone run in the inning would score off a wild pitch and that would tie the game. Kona would be very fortunate not to give up more runs in the inning, since he was bailed out on a failed hit and run play that became a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play.

Things would all go wrong in the 5th inning, as Takahashi would experience a meltdown where he would not record any further outs. This was the third time through the order for Kona, and unfortunately for him, he would be an extreme outlier for why the third time through the order penalty exists.

The first big blow would come after Kakunaka led the inning off with a single and Alfredo Despaigne would follow things up with a two-run home run off a flat pitch from Kona and it would land almost to the top of the Lions Oendan hill and was a 3-1 Marines lead. Things would only get worse, Kona would give up consecutive singles to Navarro, Suzuki, and Kiyota and that would get Kona the hook with his pitch count nearing 100 and the score 4-1 and showing no signs of stability. The one statistic that stood out in Kona's start is that he gave up 12 hits, a rough day at the office.

Takahashi would be replaced by Hirotaka Koishi, who looked to quell the second rally he's faced in two consecutive days. Koishi would show right away that the inning was far from over, by walking the first batter he faced on 4 pitches. He'd then allow an RBI single to Hirasawa that would bring in one of the inherited runners home, 5-1 and still nobody out. The pinch hitting Inoue would single as well, bringing in two and now then it was 7-1. Koishi would finally get an out with the next batter but then he'd hit Kakunaka to re-load the bases for Despaigne, as the Marines had batted around. Despaigne would hit a sacrifice fly and that would complete the Marines' scoring for the day with an 8-1 score.

It wasn't all bad the rest of the way, the Lions would show plenty of of heart a by not quitting and a Okawari Two put himself back into the headlines with a tremendous performance that gave Lions fans in attendance a nice consolation prize. In the 5th, he'd hit a long home run to one of the deepest parts of the Seibu Dome and then in the 7th, he'd hit another home run off Wakui giving him four home runs in this series against the Marines and his 8th on the year. Impressively, he hit one to the pull side and the other was of the opposite field variety. Unfortunately, the two he'd hit in this game would both be of the solo variety. The Lions would score one run in the 5th, 6th, and 7th and make it an 8-4 game heading into the 9th inning.

In the 9th, the Lions would give a loud comeback that nearly gave the Marines fans some nightmares. It would be Naoya Masuda in the game for the Marines to finish the game. The rally would start thanks to a low throw from Hisagawa that would pull his first baseman off the bag, but wasn't scored as an error. Then Kuriyama would come aboard and ground one past Hisagawa and that quickly the Lions had runners at first and second with nobody out. And coming to the plate was the headline grabber, Okawari Two, and he continued his huge night lining one into the left-center gap and that brought home both runners and Okawari Two ended up at third, his 10 total base and 4th RBI of the game, and now the game was an 8-6 game and the tying run was now at the plate.

Then the rally would sputter just enough, Naoto Watanabe would hit a lazy fly ball that wasn't deep enough for Yamakawa to tag up for the first out. Then Akiyama would hit a long fly ball that was short of the track and that would bring home Yamakawa to make it 8-7 with Yuji Kaneko coming to the plate with two outs and Kaneko would slap a base hit to get Asamura to the plate representing the winning run.

And then on a 1-1 pitch, Kaneko decided to take a risk and try to steal second base and get the tying run in scoring position, Tamura would gun down Kaneko to end the game and the comeback.

Lions 7, Marines 8

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Wes Mills Contributed to these stories

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Seibu Lions rotation FIP Results: Young Lions Pass The Early Test



Results are as of August 11th.

For further explanation on Fielding Independent Pitching statistics, click here.

Today, we will be looking at how the Lions pitchers have performed this season in accordance with the Fielding Independent Pitching formula. FIP can be a great indicator of future performance, as well as true pitching performance concerning the factors that pitchers can truly control (BBs, Ks, HRs, HBPs are the main outcomes involved).

We'll go in the order of who has the most innings pitched.

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Ryoma Nogami

FIP: 4.22

ERA: 3.82

The Lions leader in innings pitched has brought a stabilizing force to the Lions rotation that has been ravaged by injuries, growing pains, and poor performance. It's quite sad that the innings leader for the Lions only has 99.0 IP, while the Hawks and Fighters have multiple pitchers over the century mark. Let's make no mistake about it, Nogami has continued to be his usual average to below average self, he's just happened to be a bit luckier in 2016.

His strikeout rate is exactly the same as it was in 2015 (5.2), while his walk rate and hits per 9 have gone up a few ticks. Unfortunately, FIP has indicated that this trend will not continue, and his FIP over the since 2014 gives an even worse picture as that measures up to an abysmal 4.39 over a sample size of 353.2 IP. And since these calculations were made, Nogami had an awful outing of mop up duty against the Buffaloes, this past Saturday, giving up three runs in 2 IP.

He last started a game for the Lions on July 31st, where he was in-line for a win, but his bullpen let him down and he ended up with a no decision. Since then, Yusei Kikuchi has returned from injury and taken Nogami's place in the rotation, with Nogami heading to the bullpen. In two bullpen appearances, he has a 9.00 ERA.

Overall, Nogami's main value to the 2016 Lions has been his ability to eat innings when really no one else has been able to with the injuries. There's a value in doing just that, but come 2017, if the Lions give out anymore than 5 starts to Nogami, something is very wrong.

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Kona Takahashi

FIP: 3.29

ERA: 3.66

The former Koshien golden boy has seemingly weathered the storm in his first real season as a professional. At 19, he's made considerable strides from 8 starts in 2015, where he walked more than he struck out. He now has 135.0 IP under his belt and even when you include the 8 starts from 2015, he still has a cumulative FIP of 3.74, but it would be hard to argue how relevant those 8 starts from last year were considering he was an 18 year old and is a completely different pitcher than what he was then.

He's improved his K/UIBB ratio by a full point and has improved his strikeout rate by over 2 points. We already knew that Kona had electric stuff and it was just a matter of whether or not he could control it and this year, he has gotten better and better at it. FIP has shown that he's been quite unlucky as his defense has clearly jipped him from earning several wins and his Runs Against average is much higher than his ERA at 5.04.

Impressively, the teenager has averaged just over 6 innings a start, showing that he's limited those disaster starts that are usually so prevalent in the careers of young pitchers. Part of that is because Norio Tanabe has tried to stretch his starts out because injuries and inconsistency in the bullpen, but it is still impressive nonetheless. Make no mistake about it, the success or failure of the Lions for the next 5-10 years will likely start at the hands of Kona and as of right now, Lions fans should be quite happy with his progress.

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Yusei Kikuchi

FIP: 2.47

ERA: 2.51

Ever since I've started contributing to this blog, I've been Yusei Kikuchi's biggest fan. At this point in time, Kikuchi has the best stuff on the Lions staff and these numbers definitely reflect the type of dominance that Kikuchi has achieved when healthy. Many will be disappointed that he didn't reach the heights he was supposed to reach coming out of high school, where many pegged him to go straight to MLB, Due to injuries and inconsistency, he has instead looked to be a No. 2 starter with the ceiling of a No. 1, which is far from being a flop. However, there are some things that continue to keep him from being that number 1 guy he's capable of being.

Kikuchi has never thrown more than the 139.2 IP he threw in 2014, if he's going to be the guy, he needs to be that workhorse who throws over 170 IP a year. He'll also have a few games where his control is off and he has to take his chances with the 4th time through the order to get deep into the game, with all that said, his stats all look to be trending in the right direction.

His strikeout rate is the highest of his career (8.8), and his K/UIBB ratio is the best it's ever been at this amount of innings pitched (2.41). And he's only given up 4 home runs on the year. Even if you stretch out the sample size to since 2014, with a sample size of 362.1 IP, Kikuchi still finishes with an FIP of 3.32, when you see FIP marks from 2.47-3.32, it's a great sign for the future, just as long as he stays healthy.

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Takayuki Kishi

FIP: 3.02

ERA: 2.10

The historical ace of the Lions staff has once again struggled with injuries for the second straight season, but has undoubtedly pitched the best out of all the Lions pitchers when healthy. Looking at the difference between Kishi's FIP and his ERA, that would suggest that Kishi is due for a little bit of a correction, I think some sort of correction will naturally occur as he throws more innings, but Kishi has shown that he's one of those rare pitchers who's more able to consistently outperform his FIP thanks to his consistent drawing of weak contact that has allowed him to continue to be successful even though his velocity isn't what it used to be. His strikeout rate is down this year, and his walk rate has increased, so currently his K/UIBB is at 2.50 which would be the lowest of Kishi's career if the season ended today.

That last point is a bit alarming, but it's really the only number that's cause for concern over Kishi's form. At this point, Kishi should be no worse than a solid number 2 starter going forward, but health concerns still will be a thing until he puts together another season over 170 IP.

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Ken Togame

FIP: 3.97

ERA: 6.51

Last year at this time, I questioned whether or not my FIP results on Togame were anything to look at considering the weird seasons he had the last two years, unfortunately, with this season's results, it looks like the remarkably high FIP results from last year have confirmed that Togame was due for a run of awful form.

Now that we have more of a sample size, we can properly analyze Togame and really make a proper claim about his career as a starting pitcher. Togame's cumulative FIP from 2014-2016 ends up at 4.21  in 267.2 IP which makes him a well-below average pitcher. His K/UIBB ratio has gone down a half a point thanks to declining strikeout rate and a rising walk rate, the only good trend from Togame is that he's showing that the 19 home runs he allowed in 2015 were likely nothing more than an outlier because he's only given up 3 home runs this season.

Two weeks ago, when Kikuchi was returning to the rotation from injury, the Lions had to make a choice between Togame and Nogami on who to drop to the bullpen. The Lions sent Nogami to the bullpen and kept Togame as a once a week player and according to FIP, this was the right decision. Togame's H/9 have gone up 3 points this year which is definitely a symptom of poor BABIP and Togame seems to be due for a positive correction, while Nogami is most likely going to have a negative correction. At best, the two are probably a wash, since neither have much upside to really make a difference.

Come 2017, the hope is that Ken Togame will be the 6th starter and nothing more, since anything higher for him would be a bit alarming for the Lions.

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Shinsaburo Tawata

FIP: 3.58

ERA: 4.87

The Lions rookie had just come off his first career, complete game, shutout against the Fighters in Sapporo at the time of these calculations and it's quite hard to make any claims after 61 innings, but the thought that comes to mind is so far so good.

It's been a rough situation for the 23 year old and he's certainly had to learn on the fly due to injuries to the staff, but it looks like Tawata is entering signs of improved form and so far, his FIP suggests that he's in good shape. Like many young pitchers, he has had issues with command, but his strikeout rate shows he's missing bats and it looks like the Lions have made a solid decision to draft this young man in last year's NPB Draft.

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Andy Van Hekken

FIP: 3.99

ERA: 6.31

There's not much to say about this one, what I will say is what Christian and I have talked about a lot on the Lions OenDEN Podcast, the Lions longtime trend with foreign starting pitchers continues to be poor and that makes things quite tough on the rotation who struggle with finding a temporary helper.

Van Hekken's FIP suggests that he wasn't as bad as we originally thought, but the eye test clearly showed that he was getting lit up like a pinball machine, with that said, it's not fair to make any decision on someone based on 45.2 IP.  Van Hekken averaged only 4.5 innings per start and that really made Tanabe overwork his bullpen early on the season, and Van Hekken's extremely high walk rate of 5.1 BB/9 must've been what convinced the Lions that it was time to cut their losses on the former Detroit Tiger, who is remembered for a shutout as a September callup.

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Felipe Paulino

FIP: 4.08

ERA: 3.89

I can honestly just copy and paste the analysis on Van Hekken and move it here and it would pretty much work. Paulino has been passable as a Lions starter but nothing to write home about. Let's not act like he's that much better than Van Hekken, in fact, his numbers are eerily the similar.

             Van Hekken            Paulino
K/UIBB    1.35                      1.24
K/9            6.9                        6.4
BB/9         5.1                         5.2
H/9           11.6                       8.2

The last category is the one separating the two pitchers and that's easily the difference between a 6.31 ERA and an ERA around 4, especially around 40-45 IP. The only thing that seems to separate the two from a value standpoint is that Paulino has gone deeper into games but at this point, I'm chalking that up to merely sequencing and Paulino's fortunate luck. Apples to apples.

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Isamu Sato

FIP: 5.19

ERA: 5.76

Not good. Again, I don't want to judge anyone on 25.0 IP, but there's not much here. Drafted out of high school, Sato has made 4 starts for the Lions and all I can really say is that it looks like he has some strikeout potential with his 6.1 K/9, but that's where it ends. His command has been awful with his walk rate of 4.7, but he is 21 so if he ever figures it out, he can at least find some value in the bullpen with him being a lefty.

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Conclusion:

The rotation's revolving door has made the 2016 season an uphill battle that rivals Little Round Top, but the good news lies in the young kids who have so far passed their early tests and shown that their peripherals paint good pictures of their skills.

Come 2017, a top 5 of Kishi, Kikuchi, Tawata, Takahashi, and a possible Lions first round pick is sounds quite appetizing, but health will have to go the Lions way for that projection to come to life. There will another FIP post coming this week with the bullpen, and you want to miss that debacle!

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Tawata earns first career shutout, first winning week in two months


The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 4-2 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes. They won two consecutive games and even won some series which something we haven't seen since June.

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In Game 1 against the Fighters, Takayuki Kishi would take on Anthony Bass, where the latter made his first start in a month. The Fighters struck first after a long inning due to Kishi's lack of control. Kensuke Tanaka would plate the run after plenty of runners were on base, but the damage was limited in what could have been worse.

The Lions had runners on early in the game, but stranded them until the top of the third. With two outs and two runners on, Ernesto Mejia would smack a deep home run for his 28th of the year. It was his first since before the NPB All-Star break.

Kishi would have his share of jams, but escape each time including a two on situation with Sho Nakata up in the 5th. He would also walk two batters in the 7th with a high pitch count, but Shohei Otani flew out to centerfield to end the threat. Overall, he would settle in after the shaky first and go seven innings allowing one run.

Kazuhisa Makita and Tatsushi Masuda would pitch clean innings and the Lions took the first game of the series. Kishi finished the game with eight strikeouts and the bats did just enough to win with one home run.

Lions 3, Fighters 1

Game note:

-Nien Ting Wu was called up in place of Shuta Tonosaki and started at SS. He would be given two chances, but failed to bring in a run including a first pitch groundout with a runner on third and one out.

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In Game 2, Felipe Paulino would face Hayato Arakaki.  The Lions began the scoring with a three-run first inning, all with two outs. Mejia and Hideto Asamura would hit some doubles off the wall to plate the runs.

However, the Fighters answered back in the bottom of the 4th, where Brandon Laird doubled down the left field line for a run. Paulino would escape the rest of the inning by limiting the damage with two flyouts.

The same wouldn't happen in the bottom of the 5th, where he would leave the game with two runners on base and one out. Tatsuya Oishi would load the bases with a walk and allow a two-run single by Laird off the wall to tie the game. Despite the jam, Oishi would get the next two batters out to keep it tied.

This would become a bullpen game from here out out, as Shota Takekuma, Makita and Masuda worked scoreless frames for the Lions with minimal scare. Unfortunately, the Lions bats would do nothing after the first squandering more opportunities and the game would go to the 11th with Hirotaka Koishi on the mound.

He would hit Haruki Nishikawa to start the frame and everything went down hill. A bunt would move him to second base and they would intentionally walk Shohei Otani to get to Sho Nakata. After a near sayonara home run ended the game, Nakata would strikeout giving a two out opportunity for Kensuke Tanaka. He would hit a hard ground ball that needed to be fielded, but defensive sub Hotaka Yamakawa let it get past the infield for an error and the Fighters walked off.

Once again, the bats were cold, the pitching was mediocre from Paulino, but the chances were there to win and the Lions couldn't take advantage of a questionable bullpen from the Fighters. They would be denied the opportunity to win two consecutive games again.

Fighters 4, Lions 3 (11 innings)

===

To settle the series for Game 3, Hirotoshi Masui would face Shinsaburo Tawata. This would be Masui's second start of the season after being the team's closer to begin the year. It was a matinee with a brand new holiday known as "Mountain Day" in Japan.  Both teams would lack some hitting, but there was some early drama.

In the second inning, the Lions loaded the bases with one out, but Nien Ting Wu struck out and Ginjiro Sumitani grounded out to strand the runners. Tawata would allow a base hit to Shota Ono in the bottom of the 4th and he would advance to third on a wild pitch, but Takuya Nakashima struck out and the threat was avoided.

Momentum would carry for the Lions as Yuji Kaneko slipped a single by Tanaka, giving Shogo Akiyama a chance in the top of the 5th. He took a pitch deep to centerfield and the Lions would get two runs.

This day would belong to Tawata, where he was nearly automatic for the 6th, 7th and 8th innings retiring the side in order. With more than 100 pitches, Norio Tanabe kept in him for the 9th to get the accomplishment. After a quick two outs including a liner to Naoto Watanabe, Nakashima singled with two strikes. Shohei Otani would be the final hope, but Ernesto Mejia fielded a grounder down the right field line and tagged the base with his glove to complete the shutout.

This would be Tawata's first career complete game and shutout in NPB. He would only walk one batter and allow three hits as a whole for a young career. In a building where he made his ichi-gun debut, he has come a long way defeating the Fighters twice since the All-Star break.

Lions 2, Fighters 0

Game notes:

-This was the first time the Lions won a series since June 12, nearly two months ago.

-The last time the Lions won a series in Sapporo Dome was May of 2015 prior to this series.

-Asamura had a modasho.

===

In Game 1 against Orix, it would be Takahiro Matsuba against Yusei Kikuchi. The Lions struck first on a two-out single by Mejia, but the Buffaloes answered back in the third.

With Yoshio Itoi leaving the game early after being HBP, pinch hitter Hikaru Ito would hit a two-run home run to give Orix a lead. The Lions tied the game in the bottom half of the frame when Tomoya Mori hit an RBI gapper, but the bats stranded the bases loaded to not go in front.

The Lions would continue to strand base runners and not score, while Orix took advantage of their own chance in the 5th inning. Kikuchi allowed consecutive hits and Brent Morel would drive in the run to make it 3-2.

Life would come in the 6th inning for the Lions, as Nien Ting Wu drew a walk to begin a rally. After an il-advised pickoff attempt by Matsuba, Wu moved to second base. Sumitani walked and with two outs, Akiyama delivered with a single up the middle to tie it. Mori would then hit a gapper to bring in another run.

Orix tried intentionally walking Mejia with a reliever and it backfired immediately. Asamura would get a two-run single to give the Lions a three-run lead at 6-3. To remove all doubt, Takumi Kuriyama would get a two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th.

Kikuchi was far from dominant, but he kept the ball in the park minus the home run. It took some defense and luck to make sure no base runners did damage. He had a paltry three strikeouts in seven innings.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 3

Game notes:

-Kuriyama was the DH while Kaneko started in left field. Mori would be in right field as a result.

-Akiyama and Mori both had Modashos with the former going 4-4 and reaching base a fifth time with a walk.

-This was the first time the Lions would win two consecutive games since June 10, more than two months to the day.

===

In Game 2, Brandon Dickson would get the start against Ken Togame. It had the makings of a pitcher's duel, as Asamura's solo home run in the second inning would be the only run.

The Lions converted multiple double plays while Dickson picked off Kaneko and Wu while at 1st base to keep it low scoring. However, the wheels fell off for Togame in the 6th. Runners would be on first and second with one out and Yoshio Itoi grounded out to move the runners. Togame then hit Takahiro Okada to load the bases and he walked Morel on four pitches to tie the game.

Shortly after, our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a gapper off the wall to make it 4-1 and clear the bases. Masataka Yoshida and Kenya Wakatsuki would add a run each with a base hit off Shogo Noda and it would be 6-1.

Orix would add three more runs to pad the lead in the 8th and 9th inning off Ryoma Nogami. This included another RBI from Nakajima and a home run from Itoi.

This was a classic third time through the lineup penalty striking on Togame, where he couldn't get an out when Nishino (the 19th batter) was up. Not much to blame, but his control was lacking when it mattered most. Regardless, the offense couldn't score on Dickson for most of the night as he would go the distance with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Buffaloes 9, Lions 1

===

For the rubber match, Kona Takahashi would battle Sachiya Yamasaki to decide the series. Orix struck first off a triple by Shuhei Kojima in the fourth inning. After the Lions bats squandered more chances, the bottom of the 4th would be different.

With two runners on, Naoto Watanabe would double and tie the game with two outs. It would be up to Wu with another chance. This time, he delivered with a two-run single to give the Lions a 3-1 lead.

Takahashi would go seven inning and get four strikeouts, but no play was more important than the top of the 7th where he drew a double play to end a threat. Asamura and Yamakawa would add solo home runs and the Lions would secure their first winning week in two months. This would be Wu's first career hero interview after having two hits and multiple defensive plays.

Lions 5, Buffaloes 1

===

The monkey is finally off their back, a winning week after a nasty stretch of losing, let alone winning a series and having two consecutive wins.

At this point, we hope to see weeks like this, where Kishi, Kikuchi, Takahashi and Tawata have quality starts. Wins and losses are somewhat moot, but if those four pitchers can pitch like this week, it would be a good step towards next year.

Bats are going to be up and down, but we'll continue to enjoy the wins that come.

===

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rock Bottom has finally arrived


The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 1-5 against the Fukuoka Sofbank Hawks and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. They dipped into last place in the middle of the week, but are now in sole possession of the Pacific League cellar with Orix winning.

===

In Game 1 against the Hawks, it would be a battle of aces with Shota Takeda vs. Takayuki Kishi, After both pitchers had two perfect innings, Kishi would blink first giving up a solo home run to Kenta Imamiya, who was batting 9th.

The Lions would then squander a chance to tie the game with Naoto Watanabe having a leadoff triple. Ginjiro Sumitani grounded out, Kyohei Nagae struck out while Yuji Kaneko flew out, summing up the Lions offense in the last month.

This lived up to being a pitcher's duel, but it wasn't until the 6th inning where it became tough. Kishi faced the Hawks lineup for the third time and struggled. He allowed multiple hits and eventually loaded the bases for Nobuhiro Matsuda. After fouling off plenty of pitches, Matusda singled and brought home two runs. Akira Nakamura would then pad the lead with a double down the right field line and plate two more, making it 5-0.

After bobbling the ball in the top of the frame, Tomoya Mori would get the Lions two runs back with a home run, but it was too late. Kenji Akashi added a late run in the 9th to prevent any chance of a comeback.

Takeda continued his dominance of the Lions with eight innings and only allowing four hits, two of them to Watanabe. The bats continued to suffer while the third time through the order penalty hit Kishi hard.

Hawks 6, Lions 2

===

In Game 2, it would be Tadashi Settsu against Felipe Paulino, seeking his first win in NPB. The Hawks struck first after a leadoff double from Akashi and a sacrifice fly from Seiichi Uchikawa.

The Lions failed to answer back with a near replay from the previous night. Yuji Kaneko was on third base with less than two outs, but a groundout by Mori, walk by Ernesto Mejia and flyout from Hideto Asamura ended it. Paulino earned a houdini in the top of the 2nd with two on and nobody out initially.

A two out rally gave the Lions a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third from a double by Mejia and single from Asamura. Unfortunately everything unraveled in the 4th inning. Paulino failed to get an out with the first three runners reaching base due to a lack of control. The third runner reached base due to a fielding error from Paulino. He would later walk in a run to tie it. After a double play nearly limited the damage, a two-out, two run single from Akashi would give the Hawks the lead for good at 4-2. Yuya Hasegawa added another run with a single making it 5-2.

After the Lions brought it a run to make it 5-3, Hirotaka Koishi would come in to eat some innings, but paid the price. With two outs and two runners on, Shinya Tsuruoka would pinch hit and get a triple which ended any chances of a comeback making it 7-3.

Paulino was fortunate to not allow more runs through three innings, but the fourth inning, facing the Hawks lineup for the third time was just too much. Bats continued to be cold against Settsu.

Hawks 7, Lions 3

===

In Game 3, Nao Higashihama would face Shinsaburo Tawata in a battle of former first round picks. Mori struck first with a solo home run, but the Hawks answered back with a two-out RBI single from Tsuruoka making it 1-1.

Tawata would throw some hittable pitches and Yuki Yanagita took advantage in the third with a double. Uchikawa would then get an easy single to give the Hawks the lead. The Lions answered back in the bottom of the fourth, with back to back doubles from Asamura and Takumi Kuriyama to tie the game. After two outs and Kuriyama on third, Masatoshi Okada would get a bloop hit to fall for a 3-2 lead.

Another failed shutdown inning attempt would come for the fourth straight time in two games as Tawata couldn't get Yanagita, Uchikawa or Matsuda out, leading to a run.  Tawata couldn't get an out in the 5th and Shota Takekuma came in with the bases loaded and no outs. The Lions defense conceded a run to get a double play. The killer run would come from Tsuruoka on a two-out single making it 5-3.

Both teams would trade runs afterwards with Mori scoring one in the bottom of the 8th for his second HR of the night, but the Lions still had no idea what a shutdown inning was as Tatsushi Masuda coughed one up in the 9th. Dennis Sarfate made quick work to earn the save and complete the sweep.

Hawks 7, Lions 3

Game note:

-Tomoya Mori played catcher for the ni-gun team earlier in the day. Hotaka Yamakawa, Shogo Saito, Shuta Tonosaki and Kyohei Nagae also participated.

-Ernesto Mejia was benched as Mori was the DH and Yamakawa played first base.

===

In Game 1 against the Eagles, Yusei Kikuchi made his triumphant return against Minabu Mima. Zelous Wheeler drew first blood with an RBI single in the bottom of the 1st.

However, the top of the 2nd became a crooked inning for the Lions. They would bat around the order and the RBI hits would come from a single by Watanabe, double by Yuji Onizaki, single from Kaneko, triple from Akiyama and single from Mori to put six rungs on the board.

After a quick shutdown inning by Kikuchi, the Lions added two more from a two-out bloop single from Kaneko making it 8-1 in the third. Kikuchi would go six innings and gave up a solo home run to Wheeler in the 6th to make it 8-2. He was on cruise control shortly after the six run inning and proved to be efficient drawing weak contact.

Late in the game, Shogo Akiyama benefited from a dropped ball by Hiroaki Shimauchi to put the icing on the cake adding two more runs. It was a successful return for Kikuchi in his first game in nearly two months.

Lions 10, Eagles 4

Game note:

-Ryoma Nogami appeared out of the bullpen and earned a three-inning save. He did not look good with Sumitani as his catcher and gave up two runs, fortunate to not give up more.

-Kaneko had a modasho.

===

Game 2 would feature Takahiro Norimoto facing Ken Togame. The Lions struck first as Asamura hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. A bad throw from Carlos Peguero would let Akiyama score from second base for two runs.

The Eagles answered back as Togame couldn't strike anyone out. Zelous Wheeler would hit an RBI double and Toshiaki Imae would hit a sacrifice fly to tie it at 2-2. The wall would come crashing on Togame in the 4th inning, where Shimauchi would hit a grand slam after a lack of control. He wouldn't even last through five innings, giving up a 7th run as the bullpen was forced to come in.

The Lions would get three runs with one in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning each, but it was too little, too late. The bases were loaded with one out, but Yamakawa and Asamura struck out on back-to-back at bats against Yuki Matsui and the Lions would lose another. It was a bad start from Togame combined with Norimoto settling inning after a shaky first inning.

Eagles 7, Lions 5

Game note:

-Asamura had a modasho besides the two-run sacrifice fly.  He would hit a solo home run in the 8th inning.

-Ernesto Mejia was benched, but appeared as a pinch hitter late in the game and hit a double.

===

For Game 3, Kona Takahashi would take on Wataru Karashima for the rubber match. The Eagles struck first in the 1st inning off base hits by Carlos Peguero and "Ginji" Akaminai. However, the Lions roared back with three runs in the top of the 2nd inning with an RBI single from Watanabe and a gapper by Sumitani.

That was all the Lions would score for awhile, as Kona Takahashi looked like he was in a shutdown mode. However, the 7th inning is where it got tough, as he allows multiple base hits which included an RBI double from Ryo Hijirisawa and a safety squeeze from Motohiro Shima, resulting in a flip error by Takahashi. With Shogo Noda in, he couldn' help the caus as Eigoro Mogi would single and Kazuhisa Makita gave up an RBI single to Ginji.

The Lions added a run in the top of the 8th from a sacrifice fly by Mori, but it was too late again. They even had a chance in the 9th inning with the tying run on base, but Sumitani grounded out against Matsui and the Lions had another lost series.

Eagles 6, Lions 4

===

The dark times continue and the team has failed to recover from the walkoff from Hiroshima on June 14. They're 10-31 since that day and have yet to win two games in a row, let alone a series.

I wish this team would have some pride and care about these games, but the environment has become stale. There appears to be no end in sight, until the 2016 regular season ends.

===

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Koshien 2016: Schools with Seibu Lions connections

Seibu Lions have a connection to each of the 6 prefectures shaded in Blue
The 2016 Summer Koshien is upon us with a fresh tournament ahead. While Spring Koshien happens in March, this is the ultimate tournament where every school qualifies and earns their way to the dance.

If this sounds familiar, it's the Japanese equivalent of March Madness which happens to be in August and it's obviously a high school instead of University level of the sport. A total of 49 schools are representing 47 prefectures with each having at least one.

Tournament rules are simple: A win and you live to fight another day, while a loss means you're sent packing. Matchups are determined by draw, no seeding involved, meaning two great schools could see each other early. When Shohei Otani was in high school, he would lose to Osaka Toin and Shintaro Fujinami in the second round.

As always, I've manually created a Lions roster data sheet which includes their estimated salary, origin and even where they were prior to the Lions. When clicking on a player's profile, the NPB roster site in Japanese will list where he went to high school and anything after that including the industrial league team, independent league team or University he played for.

Last year, I only included players who played at least one game for the Lions' ichi-gun in 2015 up to that point (as I didn't have the full data yet). This time, the entire 70-man roster has been completed with past origins marked up. Here are the schools in this year's Summer Koshien with a Lions connection.

===

Hokkai (Southern Hokkaido): OF Daisuke Togawa, P Seiji Kawagoe

Togawa was the Lions ikusei draft pick in 2014 and earned a roster promotion after the 2015 season. Kawagoe was drafted by the Lions last fall in the second round as a pitcher. However, he can also play as an outfielder as a fall back option. Kawagoe played at the elevator University of the same name for four years after high school.

Both Kawagoe and Togawa have yet to play for the Lions ichi-gun team.

Note: Hokkaido is one of two prefectures with two schools. In this case, Hokkai represents Southern Hokkaido and is located in Sapporo.  

===

Joso Gakuen (Ibaraki): OF Yutaro Osaki

Osaki has played for the Lions since 2007 and was drafted in 2006. He has mostly been a reserve outfielder and sees playing time when the coaching staff likes a matchup that works in his favor. He played more than 100 games only once in 2012.

===

Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama): OF Aito Otaki

Otaki was the team's fourth round draft pick in 2015. Last year, he was part of Hanasaki Tokuharu's team that played in the Koshien tournament, reaching the Elite 8 equivalent. He most likely knows majority of the current roster playing this year.

Hopefully as you've read our blog, you should know Saitama prefecture is obviously home to the Seibu Lions. 

===

Jinsei Gakuen (Kagawa): IF Shogo Kimura

Kimura was a recent addition to the Lions after passing his tryout in training camp last spring. Used as a reserve infielder, Kimura unfortunately tore his ACL in June and is out for the season. He was originally an 11th round draft pick of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars in 2002.

===

Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki): P Yuta Nakazaki

Nakazaki was the Lions first-round draft pick in 2008 out of high school. Nichinan Gakuen also qualified for Spring Koshien earlier this year. This year, Nakazaki saw playing time with the ichi-gun for the first time since 2013 out of the bullpen.

===

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma): P Kona Takahashi

In Koshien history, Kona Takahashi is probably the most famous of the bunch. In 2013, he led his school to their first ever appearance at Summer Koshien and would win the whole thing with a Cinderella type of run. Takahashi would use this performance to boost his stock and eventually be selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2014 draft.

This season on June 24, the Lions played a game in the city of Maebashi where it was marketed around Takahashi. He would start the game and eventually lose it to the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Here is tape of Takahashi from one of the games from Maebashi's 2013 Koshien run against Yokohama High School


===

Just Came up Short:

Aikodai Meidan (Aichi) lost their finals and that is the school Ken Togame attended. It is more famous for being the high school of Ichiro Suzuki

Omura Kogyo (Nagasaki) lost at the final stage. Daichi Mizuguchi attended this school before playing in the industrial leagues and being drafted as an Ikusei.

===

Here is the full list of the 49 schools represented in this year's Koshien tournament, courtesy of Edwin Dizon (@Eigokokoyakyu). You can see who is a "powerhouse" vs who hasn't made the tournament in more than a decade in comparison.

Other fun tidbits include Rieseisha Tetsuto Yamada's school making the tournament. Yokohama high school is where Yoshitomo Tsutsugo attended before being drafted by the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. By qualifying, Chiben Gakuen (Nara) is trying to make history as the 7th school to win both Spring Koshien (senbatsu) and Summer Koshien (Natsu no Koshien).

There should be plenty of professional talent to scout and by the end, someone can become a legend. Players who succeed in Koshien cement their legacy as baseball players, regardless of how they do in the pros.  Enjoy!

==

We will continue to post links to legal streams available on Asahi. Please follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall for more information.  Also @Eigokokoyakyu

Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Yamakawa called up to spark a comeback


The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-4 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes. They're now 1/2 game ahead of being in the cellar, but close to last place in the Pacific League.

===

In Game 1 against the Fighters, Luis Mendoza would face Takayuki Kishi. The Fighters struck first in the second inning with a barrage of two out hits followed by a single from Shota Ono.

Hokkaido would score another run in the 4th inning where Sho Nakata doubled and Shohei Otani (as a hitter) would double down the right field immediately after. The Lions got a run back in the bottom of the 4th from a single from Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura to make it 2-1.

The Lions squandered multiple opportunities which a runners on the corners with no outs situation in the second. Kyohei Nagae struck out and Ernesto Mejia would ground into a double play. In the fifth inning, Yuji Kaneko reached second base with one out. Ginjiro Sumitani would then hit a short flyball that could have looked like a bloop single. Kaneko would take off and be doubled up for an 8-6 double play, not tying the game.

Brandon Laird, a Lions killer like many on the team, would take Kazuhisa Makita deep to left field and it would be 3-1. After the Fighters added another run, Chris Martin closed it in the 9th and the Lions would lose their second straight.

Kishi wasn't bad through six innings, but he was being hit hard in the early innings and couldn't put a zero on the board. The bats were once again dead and couldn't muster up anything and the late inning runs didn't matter. Mendoza's control showed vulnerability, but the offense failed to take advantage.

Fighters 4, Lions 3

===

In Game 2, it would be Felipe Paulino looking for his first win in NPB against Mitsuo Yoshikawa. The Fighters struck first on a two-out timely RBI hit from Ono, like the previous night. Sumitani answered back with a two-out RBI single of his own to tie the game.

The Lions would later take the lead from an RBI single with the bases loaded from Naoto Watanabe.  However, 3B coach Hiroshi Narahara sent Ernesto Mejia home and had no business doing it with right fielder Hiromi Oka playing in. After a review, Mejia was confirmed to be out at the plate.

The top of the 4th proved to be the difference maker, where Paulino coughed up solo home runs to Sho Nakata and Oka in the frame. Oka would hit only his second home run of the season.

To put salt in the wounds, Haruki Nishikawa would get an RBI single off Hirotaka Koishi in the top of the 9th inning to double the lead. Koishi continued to allow a barrage of hits and eventually it would be 8-2, including an infield single where Otani hustled to first base and beat the throw. RBI doubles from Brandon Laird and Nakata would put the game out of reach.

The Lions picked up two runs in the 9th, but it was too little, too late.  Bats were cold once again and they didn't wake up until it was garbage time.

Fighters 8, Lions 4

Game note:

-Ginjiro Sumitani left the game with a bruised thumb. He took a wild pitch off the wrist in the 6th inning as Masatoshi Okada took over.

===

In the final game, Shinsaburo Tawata would face the handkerchief prince known as Yuki Saito in a battle of former first round draft picks. The Fighters struck quickly after Nishikawa reached base and stole second. Kensuke Tanaka would hit a double for the first run, but Tawata escaped the rest of the inning without further damage after a scare.

The Lions answered back in the bottom of the 1st when Tomoya Mori would double off the left field wall to plate Akiyama. Two more hits from Hideto Asamura and Okawari-kun made it a 3-1 game. The bottom of the 2nd would feature a two-run home run from Akiyama after Kaneko did the dirty work in forcing a walk on full count followed up by a stolen base. Akiyama would add another home run in the 7th inning to make it 6-1.

Tatsushi Masuda came in for the 9th and created a scare. A few bounces didn't go his way and a throwing error extended the game. After a base hit from Nishikawa to bring in a run, Masuda struck out Tanaka to have two outs. Daikan Yoh would then whiff on a pitch and Okada picked off Nishikawa at first base to end it.

Lions 6, Fighters 2

Game note:

-To make room for Tawata, the Lions deactivated C.C. Lee and Nien Ting Wu. They also added Toshihiro Iwao to the ichi-gun roster for the first time this season.

-Takumi Kuriyama was given the day off. Okawari-kun played third base for the first time since June. Ernesto Mejia was the DH batting 7th and Hideto Asamura was batting cleanup.

===

In Game 1 against Orix, Takahiro Matsuba faced Kona Takahashi. Like the previous night, ORix's first run came quickly in the first inning from an RBI double from Yoshio Itoi.  Tatsuyuki Uemoto hit a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1, but the Lions blew a chance.

Okawari-kun would groundout with the bases loaded and fail to bring in a run with the bases loaded. Matsuba was otherwise on cruise control for the rest of the night.

The wheels fell off for Takahashi in the 2nd, where he allowed an RBI double by Ryoichi Adachi followed by a single from Brent Morel. Orix then took advantage of Tomoya Mori starting at catcher for the first time since 2014, where he was a liability. Takahashi's control was off with multiple walks and a single by Masahiro Nishino made it 4-1.

Mori would then throw a ball into centerfield on Nishino's steal attempt to score another run for Orix. Takahashi's day would be done before the 4th inning ended and the rest was history. Bats were completely dead, combined with Kona having no control for the night.

Toshihiro Iwao made his 2016 ichi-gun debut and didn't help the cause. He would allow two more runs to make the game completely out of reach. Matsuba would go the distance with only three strikeouts and allowing four hits.

Buffaloes 7, Lions 1 

Game note:

-Okawari-kun would be deactivated after the game in place of Hotaka Yamakawa.

-Tatsuyuki Uemoto started at first base while Ernesto Mejia was benched.

===

For Game 2, Ken Togame took on Brandon Dickson, who has been a nemesis for the Lions bats. After the Lions ruined multiple chances in the first two innings with less than two outs, Orix struck first in the bottom of the 4th with a single from Kenya Wakatsuki to open the scoring.

The Lions struck back with a two out single from Akiyama followed by a double from Mori off the left field wall to tie the game in the 5th. Takahiro Okada would take Togame deep with a home run in the bottom of the 6th to give Orix the lead once again.

Despite the offense looking dead for majority of the game, life came in the 8th inning. Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-out opposite field home run off Yomoyuki Kaida to tie the game. Shortly after, Uemoto would hit a double with Shogo Saito pinch running for him. A wild pitch advanced him to third and Naoto Watanabe walked, giving Kuriyama a chance as he was pinch hitting earlier in the game off the bench. Kuriyama made no mistake on a single and gave the Lions a 3-2 lead.

Shogo Noda would pitch a quick 8th inning, but more struggles happened in the 9th. The Lions would strand the bases loaded with two outs as Saito had to bat in the designated hitter position.  Saito grounded out with Sachiya Yamasaki pitching and the game was close.

Masuda came in the 9th and allowed a leadoff single to our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima. After a bunt moved a pinch runner to second, Morel would groundout put the tying run 90 feet away. Wakatsuki was up again, but a diving stop by Watanabe saved the game and the Lions would hang on.

The bats were cold, but just enough hits would come to preserve a win. Togame went seven innings and earned his first win as a starter since April 29. It was a respectable outing despite giving up a home run.

Lions 3, Buffaloes 2

Game note:

-Uemoto started as the designated hitter and Mejia was once again benched, but had a pinch hit appearance in the top of the 8th striking out.

===

For Game 3's rubber match, Ryoma Nogami would face Daiki Tomei. The Buffaloes struck first after Nogami lost control and a wild pitch with the bases loaded brought in a run.

The Lions answered back with a two-run blast from Yamakawa. Akiyama would get a timely base hit in the third inning to make it 3-1. Mejia, moving to the bottom of the lineup would get a bloop single to fall in the fourth to give the Lions a 3-run lead.

Orix got a run back in the bottom of the 4th, but they couldn't take advantage of a two on, one out situation. Shunta Goto would lineout while Masahiro Nishino popped out to end any threats.

Nogami was scary all day and Norio Tanabe yanked him after five innings. Kazuhisa Makita entered in the 6th and gave up one run, but stranded two runners getting Adachi to flyout to right field.

After a scoreless 7th inning, the 8th would be trouble for the Lions. Noda came in and allowed a leadoff double to Takayoshi Kawabata. Orix would sacrifice bunt him to third base, then Wakatsuki did damage again with a double to right field to tie the game.

The Lions would blow a chance in the top of the 9th with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out, but Watanabe grounded out and Uemoto struck out to end any threat. It was all downhill in the bottom of the 9th.  Adachi and Itoi reached base on back to back singles Masuda and the Lions had to intentionally walk T. Okada with no outs.

After Morel grounded at home plate, Kawabata did it again with a single to left field and Orix would take the series. In one week, Masuda would get two saves and a blown game but shaky in every outing.

Buffaloes 5, Lions 4

Game note:

-Tomoya Mori started at catcher again and allowed two stolen bases.

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The Lions go 2-4 with another losing week, another lost series and a continued free fall. At this point, with the decision to play Mori at catcher, the team barely cares about winning in the short term.

Masuda was on fumes and had a terrible week, similar to how Tomomi Takahashi was in the second half of 2015. Where does this team go from here? Everything is going wrong and it looks like there's no direction in what is a lame duck year for Norio Tanabe.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Report: Seibu Lions reliever Tomomi Takahashi has Tommy John surgery


The Saitama Seibu Lions announced that reliever Tomomi Takahashi had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.

Takahashi, 27, was originally the team's closer for the last two years until the final month of the 2015 season. He racked up 51 saves in two seasons, but lost his closer job after being ineffective when the summer of 2015 began.

In 2016, the Lions had him as the team's setup man and he appeared in seven games. He had one win (on opening night) and one save for the season. Takakashi's last game was on April 19 and the team deactivated him on April 22 with a reported elbow problem.

When we heard Takahashi was injured with an elbow problem, we expected this to happen. The Lions presumably tried to wait it out and hope there would be recovery, but now it will be extremely late.

With this surgery happening in July rather than May, Takahashi presumably will miss nearly the whole 2017 season as it takes at least 12 months to recover and rehab from Tommy John. At this point, we will have to hope he returns by September of 2017 at the earliest.

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